Seven Dutch teenagers and an adult man accused of kicking a football linesman to death at a junior league match have gone on trial in the Netherlands.
Richard Nieuwenhuizen, a 41-year old father-of-three, was attacked by players from an Amsterdam youth football club after officiating as a linesman in a match on 2 December last year. He was hospitalised immediately but died a day later.
The case shocked and appalled the country. Hundreds turned out for Mr Nieuwenhuizen’s funeral and thousands of matches were cancelled. The killing also ignited a debate about the causes of youth football violence.
Seven teenagers and one father, identified only as “El Hasan D”, appeared in court in the Dutch town of Lelystad, where they faced charges of manslaughter, public violence and brutality. Mr Nieuwenhuizen’s widow and one of his sons arrived at the court but declined to speak to journalists.
“After a long time, your trial is finally beginning,” judge Anja van Holten told the accused. Most had been in detention since the attack. “These will be difficult days for you. We will try to take that into account,” she added.
The prosecution argued that the actions of the eight accused caused Mr Nieuwenhuizen to collapse and subsequently die.
However, defence lawyers said pathologists had identified a tear in the linesman’s carotid artery, which could have been the primary cause of death. Christopher Milroy, a former Scotland Yard pathologist and defence witness at the trial, will testify that he could not rule out that the victim had already been suffering from carotid artery dissection – a separation of the artery walls – which is one of the most common causes of a stroke in young adults.
The prosecution has relied on evidence supplied by the Dutch forensic institute, which has concluded that Nieuwenhuizen died from the injuries he sustained during the attack.
The attackers, including one 15-year-old, deny charges of manslaughter.
The victim had been acting as a linesman for the Buitenboys club in the town of Almere when he was set upon. His own son had been playing in the match.
Four youths were arrested immediately after the attack. Another three teenagers and one of their fathers, a 50-year-old, were arrested a few days later.
Witnesses interviewed by the Dutch television channel RTL4 said that several youth players ran up to Mr Nieuwenhuizen after the final whistle was blown and began attacking him.
One of the players, who was wearing football boots, was reported to have stood on his head. “Then he was kicked three times in the stomach,” one of the witnesses said.
Mr Nieuwenhuizen got up, apparently not seriously affected by the attack, but later collapsed. The accused face a maximum 15 years imprisonment if convicted. The trial is expected to continue for five days.